You might think that the Great Dane is a Scandinavian breed, but this giant dog actually originated in Germany. Huge but usually gentle giants, the dogs are both loyal and friendly. Their intelligence and affinity with people makes them easy to train but they need a generous helping of space, company and exercise in order to thrive.
Which breed group is the Great Dane in?
Breed group: Working
Great Dane breed history
The Great Dane originated in Germany where the wealthy imported English boarhounds in the 16th century. The powerful, long-legged dogs were descended from English mastiff and Irish Wolfhound crosses. The Germans called these dogs Englischer Dogges or Englischer Hunds and began breeding their own hunting hounds from the 17th century featuring the same characteristics. They were used as catch dogs to hold prey in place until the hunter could move in for the kill. The increasing use of firearms for hunting meant that the dogs were no longer required and they became comparatively rare.
In 1878, the name of this type of dog was changed by a committee in Berlin to Deutsche Dogge. This provided the foundation for the dogs to become a specific breed. It was due to the tensions between Germany and the rest of Europe that the breed eventually became known as the Great Dane. The new name honoured the Grand Danois mentioned in Buffon's Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière.
Great Dane breed characteristics
The Great Dane’s impressive stature is the most noticeable characteristic of this breed. The tallest ever dog was a Great Dane called Zeus who was 111.8 cm tall (to the shoulder). The tallest living dog is also a Great Dane who stands 103.5cm at the shoulder. The dogs have broad muzzles and nicely chiselled faces with long forefaces and wide bridges to their noses. Their short and sleek coats can be black, blue, brindle, fawn or mantle in colour. Great Danes do shed and have a tendency to bark. They can be quite stubborn but possess impressive intelligence and wonderfully friendly natures.
The Great Dane is a loyal and affectionate dog suited to family life but one which does not appreciate being left alone. These dogs boast a strong prey instinct but will get on well with other pets.
- Lifespan: 8-10 years
- Height: up to 90cm
- Weight: up to 65kg
- Huge stature
- Short and sleek coat
- Black, blue, brindle, fawn or mantle coat
- Broad muzzle
- Chiselled face
- Friendly nature
- Tendency to stubbornness
- Often barks
- Strong prey instinct
- Needs company
- Requires large home and garden
- Can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues with Great Danes
Like most large dogs, Great Danes have relatively short lifespans. They are prone to a number of health conditions, many of which are related to the dog’s incredible size:
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV)
Wobbler Syndrome (Cervical Spondylopathy)
What is the Great Dane bred for?
The Great Dane was originally bred as a loyal hunting dog for the German nobility. The dogs were were trained to seize and hold down prey until the hunter could kill it. Later, Great Danes became status symbols and companions for wealthy gentlemen. The giant dogs possessed a friendly nature which eventually saw them bred as pets.
What sort of owners does the Great Dane suit?
It’s easy to fall in love with a Great Dane, so affectionate are these striking dogs. They are easy to train and low maintenance on the grooming front while their playfulness ensures that they charm all who meet them. However, these dogs are truly massive and require a significant amount of space to move about. Their waggy tails can cause serious damage around the home and they often suffer from separation anxiety. These dogs can drool and might be stubborn when the mood takes them.
It is also important to bear in mind that Great Danes will eat their way through a huge amount of food and so are costly to care for. They are best suited to households where at least one person is at home all day and where there is plenty of room to move about both indoors and outside. The dogs are renowned for their gentle natures but can accidently knock over small children.